When Marquette Catholic girls' soccer head coach Steve Mitchell thinks about Kate Sanfilippo he knows she'll be hard to replace.
Sanfilippo played midfielder, forward and even sweeper for the Explorers on their way to a 15-6-3 record and a berth in the Class 1A Springfield Super Sectional where they lost to eventual state champion Rochester 2-1.
Sanfilippo's role as a jack-of-all-trades for Marquette has earned her the AdVantage News Girls' Soccer Player of the Year.
“She's definitely her own kind of player, they don't make many like her,” Mitchell said. “She can do it all and she doesn't complain. If I ask her to be sweeper or center mid or go up top, whatever I ask her to do she does it and she's so strong and fast to the ball. She can play any position, so she's a versatile player. To have that kind of player is not very common.”
After starting the season playing midfield, Mitchell bumped Sanfilippo up to forward to help the offense. She led Marquette in scoring with 11 goals and 18 assists and 40 points.
“From what we lost last year, I mean I lost seven starters and we didn't know what we were going to do,” Mitchell said. “After the first five or six games of the season we got the defense put together, but we weren't scoring any goals so we moved her up and started to get a spark a little bit. Then we lost something in the mid so we moved her back and had to figure out how to use her at mid and attack. Finally we had her as an attacking midfielder and it worked out.”
Maybe the biggest example of Sanfilippo's prowess came in the Columbia Sectional finals against Gibault. Trailing 1-0 late in regulation, Sanfilippo upped her game and lit a fire under the Explorers and they tied the game.
Twice she clanged shots off the crossbar, then late in overtime she moved to sweeper and practically thwarted the Hawks' offense single-handedly. It followed a collision that sidelined Sanfilippo for a good chunk of time.
“In that game in particular we pushed her up top because we were down a goal,” Mitchell said. “We pushed her up, took a chance and ended up popping a goal and then we went into overtime and it was back to the normal set. I think she had it in her mind that she didn't want that to be her last game, because she stepped up to the plate those last 20 minutes.
“After we scored the (go-ahead) goal in overtime, for the reminder of overtime I put her back at sweeper back. She went from mid to forward to mid to sweeper, so she was all over the place. To have a player like that is nice as a coach, to be able to throw her anywhere and know that you're getting the best you have. It's unreal.”
Sanfilippo's next stop is Northern Illinois University. It won't be easy for Mitchell to replace her skill and versatility, but he also admitted replacing her quiet leadership won't be a cakewalk. Mitchell is only losing Sanfilippo and Kali Segieda from his starting lineup, so he hopes she left her imprint on the Explorers.
“She doesn't talk much. She's not one that's going to yell and scream and point fingers,” Mitchell said. “She just plays so hard and so fast. The other kids tap onto that and that's how she leads them. It's cancerous so to speak.
“We went through a time when she got hit in the Gibault game that we didn't know if she was going to be able to play against Rochester and you could tell the whole team was down... When she got on the bus and said she was going to play, it was like the whole morale changed. She just leads by being herself. She's a good kid, very talented.”